An explosion outside a mosque in central Kabul killed at least three people on Sunday, a Taliban spokesperson said, highlighting the challenge of keeping the country’s new rulers safe after decades of war.
The explosion struck around 3:30 p.m. in front of the Eid Gah mosque in central Kabul during funeral prayers for the mother of a senior Taliban official, said Qari Sayeed Khosti, spokesperson for the interior minister. At least two people were also injured in the attack.
“I heard a huge explosion,” said Hasibullah, 45, a Kabul resident who was on her way to shop near the mosque when she was hit on Sunday. âEveryone was panicked. By early evening, the sidewalk in front of the mosque had already been cleaned of the victims’ blood.
No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion, but it follows a pattern of similar attacks carried out by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. The terror group escalated its campaign of violence in the weeks following the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Western-backed government.
A few hours after the attack on Sunday, Bilal Karimi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said on twitter that a Taliban unit launched an operation against an ISIS affiliate hideout in Kabul District 17. The operation was a success, with the hideout destroyed and all ISIS fighters killed, he added.
The Taliban’s weak support in the capital is based on a promise to provide security after four decades of war and violence. This security is reinforced by the application of intransigent religious laws, which include public executions and amputations for minor offenses.
But since the Taliban’s return to power, the group has been forced to defend itself against attacks from the Islamic State and resistance forces. Now the Taliban find themselves in a position similar to that of the government they moved: trying to prevent insurgent attacks on their fighters and infrastructure.
Sunday’s explosion was the first in a Kabul mosque since the Taliban seized the capital in August. It is the deadliest attack since an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. servicemen and nearly 200 Afghan civilians during the evacuation of Kabul International Airport that month.
Taliban fighters on Sunday chased people from the scene around the Eid Gah mosque, a place of worship popular with Taliban officials. The city of more than five million people, like the rest of the country, is grappling with an economic downturn and a humanitarian crisis.
In addition, the drought and the paralysis of international aid have placed more than 30 million people in Afghanistan in an increasingly desperate situation, especially as winter approaches. Victor Blue contributed reporting from Kabul.